Originally posted on FOX Sports  |  Last updated 2/23/12
The New York Rangers have an ample cushion atop the Eastern Conference, but coach John Tortorella's focus is on turning around a sluggish stretch and not on where his team sits in the standings. The Rangers look to re-establish their success on the road by beating the rival New York Islanders again Friday night. The Rangers (38-15-5) are on top of the East by seven points over Northeast Division-leading Boston but haven't been able to continue pulling away in the race recently, dropping two of three following an 8-1-1 stretch. Those struggles continued with Tuesday's 2-0 loss at Pittsburgh. Tortorella isn't concerned with the order in the East and doesn't think it factors in any additional motivation for opponents. "I don't even think about first place. I think about every game, we're trying to win," he said. "I don't even look at the standings. Again, we're just trying to get better as a team and prepare each and every day to try to win hockey games. "I sense teams are hard to play against from day one in this league because it's a tough league. No matter what team we play, it's a dogfight. That's the way the National Hockey League is." Since Tortorella joined the Rangers on Feb. 23, 2009, they've accumulated 67 road victories to rank among the most in the NHL. They're 19-8-3 as the visitor this season. Facing the last-place Islanders (25-27-8) is a good chance for the Rangers to crack 20 road wins for a third consecutive season. They're 10-3-1 in the last 14 meetings, winning three in a row after a 3-0 victory Dec. 26. Four of the Rangers' next five games are against teams out of playoff position before they host the Bruins on March 4. Marian Gaborik has 13 goals and seven assists in 15 meetings against the Islanders since joining the Rangers as a free agent prior to 2009-10, with six goals and five assists coming in seven road matchups. The All-Star right wing enters this meeting on a five-game goal drought. Ryan Callahan, whose 23 goals are second on the team to Gaborik's 27, hasn't found the back of the net in three games after scoring six times in the prior four contests. The captain had a goal and an assist in a 4-2 victory in the most recent game on Long Island on Nov. 15. The Islanders have dropped five of eight and followed a 6-0 loss to Ottawa on Monday with a 2-1 defeat at Buffalo the following day. "This is no time to panic," said interim coach Doug Weight, who filled in behind the bench against the Sabres because coach Jack Capuano had the flu. "If you sit on the plane, you look at it as catastrophic," Weight said. "But as tough as it is, when teams are struggling, it can change in a hurry. So we have to get our swagger somehow offensively back. And it's there to be had." Production from John Tavares and Matt Moulson would help. Tavares leads the Islanders with 58 points but has five in the past 11 games and none in the last two while being limited to two total shots on goal. Moulson's 25 goals are a team high, but he has none in four games. Both have found success against the Rangers, registering five points each in four season meetings. Tavares has 15 points in 15 games versus the bitter rival, while Moulson has 17 in 17.
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